2.04 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the Second Reading debate today. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Temple-Morris could not speak in the debate as he was not here at the start. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cooper of Windrush, on his excellent maiden speech. Like other noble Lords, I look forward to future contributions from the noble Lord in your Lordships’ House. I saw in his list of achievements that he is a former official of his party. As a former official of my party, I am delighted to welcome him here.

We have heard a number of powerful speeches from Members of this noble House who, before serving in this House, were honourable and right honourable Members of the other place and gave equally distinguished service there. That is where I want to start my remarks today. I agree entirely with the comments of my noble friends Lady Corston and Lord Dubs. Members of Parliament are people who have put themselves forward

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for election and have been elected over the years since elections were first held. In all but the tiniest minority of cases, they are very honourable people who serve their constituents tirelessly. They work long hours, they represent their constituents and they speak up for people. They take up causes—sometimes unpopular causes—they campaign, they challenge conventional wisdoms, they win public support, they change the views of Governments, they change laws and they make our country better. Being a Member of Parliament is an honourable thing and we are very lucky in the United Kingdom that we have people of honour, calibre and ability who are prepared to put themselves forward from all parties and sometimes no party.

Those remarks apply equally to noble Lords in this House. Although not elected, they are people of honour and ability right across the House who seek to improve legislation, take up causes and say what needs to be said. My noble friend Lady Hayter was right when she pointed out the honourable campaigning role on a range of issues of Members of the other place, including gay rights, the end of capital punishment, a woman’s right to choose, and, more recently, opposition to fracking. If Members were sentenced to a period of imprisonment for a peaceful protest, they would run the risk of being subject to recall.

At the general election, my party backed the principle of recall and we back legislation that enables the public to have a right of recall over their Member of Parliament. We have to be careful to respect the decisions that the other place has taken. However, at the same time, we must seek to improve the Bill. It concerns how we deal with people who are Members of the other place and have been convicted of an offence and imprisoned and, with the appeal process exhausted, suspended from the service of the House for a period of at least 10 days.

When this Bill becomes an Act, I hope that it never needs to be used. A look back at history suggests that it would have been used fairly infrequently, as my noble friend Lord Grocott pointed out, and I am pleased about that. I am also aware that the Standards Committee in the other place is presently undertaking a review of its procedures and the Bill is drafted to take account of that, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, said. I think it is right that how the committee operates is a matter for the House of Commons and not the Government or your Lordships’ House to decide.

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, referred to the amendment moved by his honourable friend in the other place, Dr Julian Huppert. The other place decided on that issue when the amendment was pressed to a vote and defeated. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, that as the other place has decided on that issue these Benches will not support that amendment if it comes before this House.

As other noble Lords have said, far too much of this is left to regulation rather than being specific and clear in the Bill. I do not think that is right. It is worth noting that there is nothing in the Bill that stops the other place expelling a Member if they have done wrong. The other place has had that power for a considerable time but has used it very infrequently, as my noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport pointed

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out. I also agree with my noble friend’s comments about the amendment moved by Zac Goldsmith in the other place. We cannot have MPs hounded by blogs and other electronic forms of communication referred to by my noble friend Lord Snape.

When we consider the Bill in Committee and on Report, we will look very carefully at a number of specific provisions in the Bill. We will look at how they will operate and say what we think needs to be amended to improve on what is proposed. Those issues include what would happen if the MP who was the subject of the recall also happened to be the Speaker. The Bill is fairly silent on that and Clause 19, as it stands, does not satisfy legitimate concerns in this respect.

My noble friend Lady Hayter of Kentish Town explained to the House the concerns we have in respect of where the balance is drawn between what is public and what is private, and of the appropriate protections both for the Member of Parliament who is the subject of the petition, who has the right to be treated fairly, and the constituents who are registered to vote in the constituency, who have to understand clearly their rights and responsibilities and what is public and what is not. My noble friend made a very important point about the marked register being made public. That is the end of the secret ballot in the UK because, if you go to sign the petition, you are voting only one way. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, made an important point about the organisation of the petition.

My noble friend Lord Lennie made a number of important points with which I am in total agreement. We have to be much clearer than we are at present about the role of petitions officers and how they discharge their functions. In my opinion, there is a lack of clarity about the status of the petition. Is it public or private? What are the arrangements for inspection and challenge of any of the names on the petition? How can we ensure that people are treated properly?

My noble friend Lady Corston was right to refer to the number of offices where electors can go to sign a petition. I have lived in various constituencies in either cities or boroughs as my work took me around the country. There was the old Southwark-Peckham constituency, the Coventry north-east constituency and Nottingham north. I currently live in the Lewisham-Deptford constituency. Four places for residents to sign in each of those constituencies would not be enough, let alone in a large rural constituency.

It is very disappointing that the Electoral Commission does not have a formal role in ensuring compliance or monitoring of campaign spending and donation rules in respect of recall petitions. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, can tell us why that is the case. I believe that the Electoral Commission should take a leading role here and it is not good enough to leave this to local petitions officers. As my noble friend Lord Lennie said, any suggestion that these events would have a local feel is nonsense. Let us be clear: if a Member of Parliament is the subject of a recall petition, that is not a local event with a local feel. It will be a national news story and a national event that will get intense media scrutiny. What we need is consistency, clarity, definition and certainty. Leaving these matters

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in the hands of local petitions officers will not give us that, nor will advice and guidance from the Electoral Commission alone.

Along with the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, who is not in her place today, I was one of the first electoral commissioners appointed by a political party and saw first hand the skills and expertise that the Electoral Commission has. When political parties submit their donation reports, they are checked by commission officials. Feedback is given and, if there are problems, they are taken up with the parties concerned. Commission officials also work with parties at times other than when returns are being submitted. To leave it to campaigners and petitions officers to make sure they have got this right is just not good enough.

What testing of the question, as detailed in Clause 9, has taken place? We need to be reassured that the question is fair, balanced and objective. The Electoral Commission has the people with the expertise to do that. It has tested questions before and did excellent work on the question for the recent Scottish referendum. Its report was accepted in its entirety by the Scottish Government and the question was changed to a much more neutral one. Can the noble Lord tell the House whether the Electoral Commission has tested the question, or been asked to test it? If the answer is no, can he please tell the House why not? When will the Government ask the Electoral Commission to carry out this important work?

I am also not happy with where we are in respect of numerous local campaigns working to unseat the sitting Member all apparently being set up with a limit of £10,000. Surely, we should seek to get a more level playing field here, with campaigns to unseat or keep the Member in their seat having similar expenditure limits. Not to seek to do this is clearly unfair. As I and other noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside, have said, if the MP has a record of championing unpopular but honourable causes, certain people and organisations may not like that. The MP may take part in a peaceful protest, be arrested and spend a day or two inside. All of a sudden they are at risk of being recalled, following dozens of well funded campaigns, all spending £10,000 to get 10% of the electorate on to a petition. That cannot be right. Such MPs could find that all sorts of people and campaigns are working to unseat them. As I say, that cannot be right. Can the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, give some indication that he is willing to work with the Opposition to try to put in place some sort of protection or scheme to stop that situation arising?

I agree very much with the comments of my noble friend Lord Grocott when he called for the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. It is shocking to realise that, had that Act been in force, there would have been only 13—not 18—general elections since the Second World War.

In conclusion, today’s debate has highlighted a number of issues that will need detailed consideration by your Lordships’ House when we return after the Christmas and new year break. I look forward to taking part in that.

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2.16 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, this has been a very impassioned debate in many ways. On the question of how many elections we should have had since the Second World War, I can remember very well the two indecisive elections of 1974, and the weakness of government which resulted from that, which led to a Labour Government first having to run to the IMF and then losing their majority and having to come to the Liberals, as we then were, for outside support. I do not in any sense go back on my support for the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. I think of the two elections in 1964 and 1966, when Labour was successful in getting a second majority, and the two attempts in 1974, when Labour was unsuccessful in getting a second majority. If there were to be a second election in 2015 if no party obtained a majority, I have no doubt that that would happen again because such a procedure is promoted to the public, so I do not resile from my support for fixed-term Parliaments.

Lord Grocott: What about the two Liberal elections in 1910? The noble Lord presumably now feels that there should have been five years between those two elections.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I was not involved in that election; perhaps the noble Lord was. However, I have to admit to the House that early one morning, when I was half awake, my mind turned to the noble Lord, Lord Grocott. I had an image of a debate in this Chamber in about 1831, in which an Earl Grocott denounced the proposals for major constitutional change as being unnecessary and disturbing the established traditions of party patronage. Perhaps the noble Lord and I might discuss off the Floor which proposals for constitutional reform over the past 150 years he might have supported at the time.

All three parties committed to a recall system in their manifestos, and this was included in the coalition’s programme for government. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, had some fun talking about parties that do not carry out all the pledges in their manifestos. All three parties were committed to this in principle in their last manifestos, which provides a certain basis for it. I remind her of something that I have said previously to other members of her party—namely, when one examines the 1997 Labour Party manifesto, the clearest pledge was to bring forward proposals for electoral reform. However, the Labour Party then entirely abandoned that pledge, as it did with a number of other things as well.

This Bill will introduce a system where MPs will be subject to a recall petition where they are found guilty of wrongdoing under a specific set of triggers, as set out in the Bill. Regulations have been mentioned. I assure noble Lords at the outset that before Committee we will put in the Libraries of both Houses an early draft of the regulations which will need to be made under the Bill, which will set out the areas that will need to be covered. The regulations will build upon the principles and precedents in electoral legislation. Noble Lords will have recognised already the extent to which the drafting of the Bill has followed as closely as possible the language in a number of previous Bills about electoral and political regulation.

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Some large and detailed issues have been raised. Most of those who have spoken have said that they supported the principle of the Bill. I think I counted at least three, perhaps up to five, speakers who explicitly or implicitly opposed the principle of the Bill. Let me start with the detailed scrutiny issues that have been raised. I particularly welcome the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, who raised a number of specific questions that we must address in Committee and on Report. There is the question of whether this is a secret and open process, and how far the process is in the hands of the constituents themselves or outside, wealthy groups. There are also questions on how many signing points there may be within the constituency and who will check on permissible campaigners and permissible donors. Those are very much the sort of point on which we, as a revising House, would wish to focus in our further consideration.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: Can I take it from that that the Government still have not decided whether they want an open or secret vote?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, unavoidably, as the noble Baroness has said, this has to be partly a public process. One goes to vote. Incidentally, the fact that this is a more public process does not mean the end of the secret ballot because the ballots when one is electing someone remain entirely secret. Access to the register of people who take part by post is a matter that we need to explore further. There are perhaps mechanisms to write into the regulations that will restrict access to the register for those who do not want their names to be entirely public. However, that is something that we need to explore because there are important principles here. Some noble Lords might wish to argue that signing a petition should be a public declaration because that is part of the transparency of objecting to one’s current representative. We will explore that further.

The question of the number of facilities in a constituency has also been raised—the Brecon and Radnor question, as we will have to refer to it. Again, we will come to that as we go through Committee and Report. The Government have consulted electoral administrators and returning officers, and their representative bodies—the Association of Electoral Administrators and SOLACE—throughout the Bill’s development, and we welcome their responses. They agree with the policy intention of the campaign regulation provisions in the Bill that petitions should be events with a local feel, without a need for a statutory register of campaigners. The question of how we deal with separate campaigns, and how, in particular, we interpret the existing rules on those who are acting in concert, is a matter that we will want to test and make sure that we get right in Committee and on Report. We appreciate that there are important questions at stake and we are all concerned to limit the influence of money in this process, as in others. Much of the debate so far has brought back the painful memory of the transparency of lobbying Bill, in which some of us took part this time last year.

The question of who is responsible for regulating the campaign has also been raised. We will, again, explore that further. Enforcement of the rules will be

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the responsibility of the police and the courts. Transparency is intended to be the basis of the campaign. Responsibility for the administration and conduct of the recall petition falls to the petition officer, whose role in the recall petition process will be analogous to that of a returning officer in an election in ensuring that relevant information is open to public scrutiny. The Electoral Commission will be responsible for oversight of the rules in the way in which it already takes that part.

The question that the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, raised about the numbers of groups spending £10,000 is a matter that, as I say, we will need to look at to make sure that the regulations cover that. The noble Baroness raised the question of whether those spending less than £500 would remain entirely unregulated. Non-accredited campaigners spending small sums will of course have to include their imprint in everything that they publish. That comes within the normal rules. Those who spend less than £500 will also be subject to the “acting in concert” provisions that cover existing elections.

On double signing, the intention is to ensure that the maximum number of people have the opportunity to sign, but the normal checks will be in place to ensure that each person signs only once and that the petition clerk at the signing place will mark the register to check whether the person is eligible to be issued with the signing sheet.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, also raised the question of whether the petition process places a heavy burden on local authorities. I stress that the Government see this process as a reserve power. This also partly responds to the suggestion that there should be a sunset clause; the noble Lord, Lord Soley, suggested a period of five years. We see this not as a mechanism that would need to be used often—five years is, therefore, far too short—but as a necessary reserve power for the public and Parliament to have, because it has become a necessary element in re-establishing a degree of confidence in our parliamentary democracy.

We all accept that the vast majority of people involved in politics are entirely honourable. Indeed, I think that many of us who have read about British politics in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s would accept that the degree of misconduct is much less now than took place then. I can think of several Prime Ministers who would not have survived current scrutiny of their personal or financial affairs but who nevertheless had good careers in the first half of the century. Nevertheless, we recognise that there are always some bad apples in every single basket and that some measures to make sure that where misconduct takes place there is a degree of comeback. That is what this Bill is about.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked about the wording of the petition signing sheet. It has been developed in consultation with the Electoral Commission to ensure that it is balanced and fits in with the commission’s guidance for referendum questions. We are confident that the wording we have devised through discussions with the commission gives petitioners the information they need, including making the important addition that if an MP loses their seat as a result of a petition there is nothing to stop them standing as a candidate in the subsequent by-election.

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark: The noble Lord said that the petition wording had been developed in consultation with the Electoral Commission. Has the question actually been tested? That was the point I raised.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Officials are now arranging the use and testing of the wording of the petition and are in contact with the commission about the form that that testing will take. We can discuss that further—if necessary, off the Floor.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I raised the question of Phil Woolas and the election court. Is that what the noble Lord is talking about now, or will he comment on that?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I would say simply that under this Bill, if a recall petition is successful, the sitting MP will be entitled to stand again in the by-election; so the Woolas incident could not happen under this Bill. I hope that that is entirely clear.

Lord Dubs: My point is that we now have two different systems—the system in the Bill and the system in the electoral court that caused Phil Woolas to lose his seat and not be allowed to stand again. That seems to be an anomaly. Surely we should encompass the electoral court within the ambit of the Bill, so that a future Phil Woolas could stand again or there could be a recall procedure.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I think I hear the noble Lord considering an amendment in Committee on that question. Again, we are open to consideration on all of this.

The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, tells us that he will reintroduce into our Chamber a revised form of the amendment introduced by my honourable friends David Heath and Julian Huppert. I look forward to that with interest. I have already discussed this with him, although I have to say that, at the moment, neither I nor the Bill team is persuaded that it is a workable additional trigger in its current form.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, asked about the technical amendments that the Government are introducing and whether that changes the 10-day trigger. The answer is no, they do not change the 10-day trigger. These are purely technical amendments to ensure that the amendments put in in the Commons fit with the language of the Bill. If he wishes to raise the 10-day question in Committee, that is a matter for him.

Lord Campbell-Savours: In the light of a number of contributions today referring to the difficulties that will arise in the Standards Committee, will Ministers now consult, both privately with members of the committee and with the leadership of other political parties in the Commons, to see whether there may be a need to rethink the position that has been taken on this?

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I will consider that but I am not going to give any commitment on the Floor. Indeed, the noble Lord spent a good deal of time talking about the operations of the Standards Committee. I recognise that that is a particular concern to him, although it is not in the middle of the consideration of the Bill.

The wider issue, which a number of noble Lords mentioned—I recognise that 10 of the 17 speakers in this debate are former Members of the other House—is public trust in the Commons and in democracy as such. As we consider the Bill, we have to be careful not to propose that we should engage in saving the Commons from itself, which was the echo I got from some of the contributions—to supply the courage, which MPs have failed to show, to resist the popular mood was the underlying argument of one or two contributions, I think. Yes, popular attitudes to politics at present are dangerously negative. Yes, it would be wonderful if they were different, but we cannot change the public. I am afraid that Parliament has to adapt to the public while we provide—and we all need to provide—the political persuasion and political leadership to begin to change the level of public disillusionment. However, we cannot entirely stand up against it and dismiss it.

Lord Soley: I can assure the noble Lord—I think this applies to everyone—that it is not about doubting the courage of MPs, but about wondering whether they have thought through the consequences of exceptional cases, which will occur. Just as there was an outburst against expenses issues in this House and the other, when you get someone, whether they are imprisoned or something else, who is sentenced for something that the public feel positively about and want that person to remain an MP—as has happened on a number of occasions in history—you might get the exact reverse feeling. That process has not been thought through. It is not about courage.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I take that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Grocott—the Earl of Grocott, as I shall always think of him now—and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, both said that we should leave this—

Lord Grocott: Perhaps I can nip this in the bud. If the noble Lord insists on referring to me as Earl Grocott, could he at least acknowledge that, contrary to his party and its supporters, when the views of Earl Grocott respecting the voting system were put to the Great British public, they supported the noble Earl by a majority of 2:1, rather than the Liberal Democrats?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the noble Lord.

The noble Lords, Lord Grocott and Lord Hughes, said that we should leave this to political parties. Part of our problem in current-day British politics is that the golden age, when political parties were mass parties and mass movements, has gone. When I first stood for Parliament the membership of my political party—the third political party, the Liberals—was larger than the membership of any of the three parties today.

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The Conservative Party had more than 1 million members; the Labour Party was a mass movement, with large trade unions and very large constituency membership. We all know that that is, sadly, not the case now.

We fail to engage the public. That is partly because there has been social transformation, and communications transformation, as the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, said. Globalisation has affected the way that the public look at politicians. We have lost that age. It is not only in Britain: we see it in the United States, Germany, France and elsewhere. In an age of instant communication—I think the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, referred to the “online mob”, by which I think he means 38 Degrees; I am sure that 38 Degrees will quote him on that tomorrow, as it is likely to do—we have a problem that the public are irreverent about all elites, not just politicians, and see a Westminster bubble as much as they see a Brussels bubble. We need to do a whole host of things together, across the parties, to begin to re-establish public trust in our institutions. I think, very strongly, that decentralisation, devolution and the revival of local democracy is a very important part of that. However, I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Norton, that political leadership and political persuasion is something we have failed to make towards a disillusioned electorate. Perhaps a little less partisan sniping as we go towards the general election and more common defence of reasoned debate is something that we all need to reflect on.

The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, talked about a slippery slope, but there are other slippery slopes. The slippery slope towards mass popular disengagement in politics is also one that we are on.

We have put forward the Bill believing not that it is the golden trigger that will somehow revive public trust alone, but that it is one element among many that we need to begin to re-establish public trust in democratic politics and in Westminster. I look forward to Committee, when we will discuss some of the detailed issues that have rightly been raised.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Al-Sweady Inquiry Report


2.37 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. The Statement is as follows.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the report into the Al-Sweady inquiry into allegations that British forces tortured and executed up to 20 Iraqi men on 14 and 15 May 2004, and mistreated nine others between 14 May and 23 September 2004.

I am today laying before the House the independent report published this morning by Sir Thayne Forbes as chairman of the public inquiry into these incidents. I am grateful to Sir Thayne and his team for their

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painstaking work, and for producing a report that puts to rest once and for all these shocking and, as we now know, baseless allegations. As I know Sir Thayne will acknowledge, the Ministry of Defence has provided unstinting support for his inquiry.

During 169 days of hearings, Sir Thayne heard evidence from 55 Iraqi witnesses, 222 current and former service personnel, and four expert witnesses. He also considered the written statements of a further 328 witnesses. His findings are incontrovertible.

It was alleged that, following a planned and co-ordinated ambush of British troops by heavily armed Iraqi insurgents around the Danny Boy permanent vehicle checkpoint on the main road between Basra and Al-Amarah, British service personnel had captured up to 20 Iraqi men alive, had taken them back to Camp Abu Naji, and had then tortured and killed them in cold blood. These are allegations of the most serious nature, and they are untrue.

The allegations have changed several times over the years. This is how Mr Phil Shiner, of the firm Public Interest Lawyers, presented them at a press conference in 2008:

‘What you have heard is evidence that these 5 survivors have witnessed, seemingly in three separate venues at close hand:

The execution of up to 15 men.

Between 4 and 5 of these executions involving shots at close range and the remainder some sort of strangulation or throat cutting.

Some of these executions preceded by torture or mutilations that are so horrific that our clients could not describe the prolonged screaming without breaking down’.

Today it has been confirmed that British soldiers did not carry out the atrocities that have been falsely attributed to them. Sir Thayne deals unequivocally with the soldiers’ actions and the falsity of the allegations. I quote:

‘this Inquiry has established beyond doubt that all the most serious allegations, made against the British soldiers involved in the Battle of Danny Boy and its aftermath and which have been hanging over those soldiers for the last 10 years, have been found to be wholly without foundation and entirely the product of deliberate lies, reckless speculation and ingrained hostility’.

Sir Thayne contrasts the falsity of the Iraqi accounts with the truthfulness of the military witnesses:

‘the vast majority of the allegations made against the British military, which this Inquiry was required to investigate (including, without exception, all the most serious allegations), were wholly and entirely without merit or justification. Very many of those baseless allegations were the product of deliberate and calculated lies on the part of those who made them and who then gave evidence to this Inquiry in order to support and perpetuate them’.

Counsel for the nine former detainees and the relatives of the deceased conceded only as late as March 2014 that the evidence pointed overwhelmingly to the fact that—as the Government have maintained throughout this public inquiry and the preceding judicial review—all those whose bodies were handed over to the Iraqi authorities for burial on 15 May had died on the battlefield.

The delay in making this concession is both inexplicable and shameful. By 4 July 2013, expert witnesses had already demonstrated unequivocally that the Iraqis had died as a result of wounds sustained in the fighting. Had the concession been made then, it would not have

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been necessary for so many soldiers to give evidence. Sir Thayne could have concluded his hearings more quickly and there would have been a significantly smaller bill to the taxpayer.

Following the battle, the nine detainees were taken to Camp Abu Naji. Sir Thayne has rejected most of the allegations made in connection with the detainees’ treatment at Camp Abu Naji, including a lack of adequate medical care, assaults, withholding of drinking water in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, and the use of ‘white noise’.

I accept Sir Thayne’s conclusion that some instances of ill treatment did occur: the detainees were not provided with adequate food, and such food as was given was not provided until after they had been tactically questioned; they were prevented from sleeping until three to four hours after arrival at the camp; the detainees’ sight was restricted almost continuously; and the tactical questioning involved the use of the—since withdrawn—‘harsh’ technique and thus amounted to ill treatment. Importantly, Sir Thayne observes that as a result of changes by the MoD over the past several years, such ill treatment should not occur in future.

Sir Thayne also concluded that the requirement for detainees to undress fully as part of the medical examination and concurrent search for prohibited items amounted to ill treatment, and he criticised the attitude of the regimental medical officer towards the medical examination of the detainees on their arrival at Shaibah. But Sir Thayne has concluded that only one of the detainees—who suffered discomfort for longer than he might otherwise have done—suffered any adverse consequences as a result of any deficiencies in the medical examination. I wish to express my regret to the House that these instances of ill treatment should have occurred.

Sir Thayne Forbes has made just nine recommendations, and acknowledges the progress that the MoD has made since 2004 to improve all aspects of the prisoner-handling system—from policy and doctrine to unit-level instructions and procedures, as well as training and oversight—and ensure that these comply with domestic and international law. I accept all nine in principle but have commissioned urgent work on their practical implications. In particular, we need to ensure that they will not prevent the Armed Forces from carrying out vital tasks. I will announce to the House my final conclusions as soon as possible.

The Iraqi detainees, their accomplices and their lawyers must bear the brunt of the criticism for the protracted nature and the £31 million cost of this public inquiry. The falsity of the overwhelming majority of their allegations, the extraordinarily late disclosure of a document showing the nine detainees to have been insurgents, and the delay by their lawyers in withdrawing the allegations of torture and murder, have prompted the Solicitors Regulation Authority to investigate possible breaches of professional standards. It is expected to complete its investigation into Public Interest Lawyers and Leigh Day & Co early next year.

Had the Legal Services Commission been aware in 2008 of this document, it would have refused legal aid for the judicial review which took place then. This

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would have spared the service personnel a further six years of uncertainty and anxiety, the relatives of the deceased a further six years of false hope, and the British taxpayer a very high bill.

While procedural failures by MoD led to this public inquiry being established, it is those who made these false allegations who bear responsibility for saddling the taxpayer with what has turned out to be a £31 million bill. While there is no provision in the Inquiries Act for recovering the costs of a public inquiry, the MoD is exploring whether the claimants’ failure to disclose the militia document will allow us to recover any of the costs in the judicial review.

I regret that it was found necessary to hold a public inquiry to disprove these allegations. This is not another Baha Mousa or an Abu Ghraib. No one died in British custody. There was no deliberate ill treatment. Rather, the few instances of ill treatment were the result of failings in doctrine and training that have already been or are being corrected. This was a shameful attempt to use our legal system to attack and falsely impugn our Armed Forces. That it has failed reflects the diligence and skill with which Sir Thayne has uncovered the facts.

I quoted earlier the accusations made by Mr Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers in calling for this inquiry. At that time he said:

‘Do not believe for one second that we make these allegations lightly or without the evidence available to substantiate every single word of what we say’.

It is now beyond doubt that those allegations were without foundation. I challenge him and the other lawyers involved to issue an unequivocal apology to the soldiers whose reputations were traduced, and to the taxpayers who have had to pay the costs of exposing these lies.

I would add only one final remark. Following the Battle of Danny Boy, five soldiers were awarded the Military Cross and one the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for their conduct there and in other engagements in early 2004. Other acts of bravery emerge clearly in the accounts of the battle. This is who our service men and women are. The reputation of our Armed Forces has been hard won in the service of our nation. It will survive the baseless slurs of those who seek to undermine those on whom we all depend.

I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

2.49 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place earlier today. We, too, express our thanks to Sir Thayne Forbes and his team for their diligent work and their very comprehensive and conclusive report. Our Armed Forces often face the most difficult and challenging conditions, and the Battle of Danny Boy in southern Iraq in 2004 was one such occasion. The battle was ferocious and our troops were in great danger. As the Defence Secretary said in his Statement, five soldiers were awarded the Military Cross and one the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.

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Not only do our soldiers show courage but they pride themselves on their conduct in battle and on the high standards to which they are held and, indeed, to which they hold themselves. They are, and will remain, accountable both to international law and to the Geneva Convention. As the inquiry chairman says in the report,

“the events, with which this Inquiry was concerned, commenced with a deadly, planned and co-ordinated armed ambush of British troops on Route 6 on 14 May 2004. That ambush was carried out by a large number of heavily armed Iraqi insurgents”.

The inquiry chairman went on to say,

“it does seem to me that the evidence clearly showed that the British soldiers responded to this deadly ambush with exemplary courage, resolution and professionalism”.

However, in our country we are not afraid to be open and frank when those high standards are not met and when our Armed Forces do not adhere to the conduct expected of the British military. Examples of that are the statements of the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition in 2010 following the publication of the report of the Saville inquiry into the events known as Bloody Sunday and the response to the Baha Mousa inquiry. It is a source of strength, as well as of pride, that we are a country where that level of frankness, openness and honesty can happen.

However, we are also a country where we will not tolerate calculated, malicious and baseless untruths against our service men and women. This independent public inquiry report by Sir Thayne Forbes states in those very terms that the serious allegations which precipitated this inquiry were just that. They were serious allegations that British forces tortured and executed up to 20 Iraqi men on 14 and 15 May 2004 and mistreated nine others between 14 May and 23 September 2004. The report finds that there were no unlawful killings on the battlefield, no mutilation of bodies and no executions in custody. The first casualty of war is indeed the truth.

The report, while dismissing the serious allegations made against British troops, draws attention to some areas where we should learn lessons. It states that certain aspects of the way in which the nine Iraqi detainees in question were treated by our Armed Forces during the time they were in British custody in 2004 amounted to actual or possible ill treatment. It is regrettable that that occurred and it is not acceptable. We support the conclusions and recommendations of the inquiry report. Will the Minister again confirm the Government’s position on the nine recommendations and perhaps give some idea of how long it will take to implement them?

The report identifies ways in which we might avoid the need for such costly inquiries in the future. We share the concerns about legal representatives and the legal process in this instance. On that point, the recommendations in the report should help to ensure a better way of examining allegations against our Armed Forces which avoids unnecessary and cumbersome processes, significant financial cost and creating uncertainty over a period of many years, not least for members of our Armed Forces who are the subject of serious allegations. Can the Minister say what support is now given to service personnel who find themselves in this situation, including personnel who have left the Armed Forces before an inquiry has been finalised?

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Our Armed Forces are the best in the world. Our service men and women carry out their duties with great bravery and distinction, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude for their service to our country. I end by drawing attention to the conclusion of the report, which compared the testimony of those alleging and those being accused. The Iraqi witnesses were,

“unprincipled in the extreme and wholly without regard for the truth”.

British military witnesses were, by contrast, “truthful and reliable”, despite their difficulty and distress caused by recalling traumatic events in battle. Those two quotations from the report speak for themselves, and they speak volumes.

2.55 pm

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we, too, welcome the report and the spirit of the recommendations. It is a full account of what happened and we are most grateful to the chairman for his careful analysis of the evidence. I agree with the noble Lord that our Armed Forces are the best in the world. They were in great danger and we owe them only a debt of gratitude. A couple of months ago, I was honoured to meet many of the soldiers who served on TELIC 4 at their service in Southwark Cathedral commemorating the 10th anniversary of TELIC 4. It was a very difficult tour and the post-operation report by the 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment reported more than 850 contacts, 250 rocket or mortar attacks and close to 40 casualties during the period April to June 2004.

This report will come as some form of relief to the soldiers involved in this deadly insurgent ambush. The report identifies that they acted with exemplary courage, resolution and professionalism. The noble Lord said—and we agree entirely with him—that we must be accountable to UK and international law, and we must be open and frank when high standards are not met. While the vast majority of the accusations against the military were entirely without merit and the Army’s use of force was appropriate, there were some instances of ill treatment. We are satisfied that those incidents would not occur today thanks to changes made since 2004, including, as the noble Lord said, as a result of the Baha Mousa inquiry.

The noble Lord asked me about the recommendations. We accept the intent of all the recommendations but want time to study them fully and to consider their practicalities. In particular, we need to ensure that they will not prevent the Armed Forces carrying out vital tasks. We will announce the results to Parliament as quickly as possible.

Of course the Army and its soldiers must be held to account when they fail to uphold our high standards. I entirely agree with the noble Lord on that. However, this case raises—the noble Lord alluded to this—serious questions about how far the tentacles of litigation of this kind should extend into the battlefield, where our people are forced into making split-second decisions under the most intense and deadly pressures.

I wish to make one point on the recommendations. There was criticism of the storing of documents. We have implemented a better system for collecting,

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repatriating and archiving information created during military operations, and there has been no occurrence of failures since then.

The noble Lord asked whether we have improved detention. All this happened 10 years ago. The procedures have changed and lessons have been learnt in the decade since the early stages of the Iraq campaign. Our detention practices have now been brought fully into line with UK and international law. The Army Inspector, who is independent of the chain of command, confirmed in two inspections in 2010 and 2012 that these changes have taken effect.

The noble Lord asked about the service men and women who were involved and who might still be serving. I understand that one is still serving and the others have all left. No disciplinary action has been taken against any of the soldiers whose treatment of the detainees the report finds amounted to ill treatment, nor is it clear that disciplinary action could be taken now against any soldier still serving since the report accepts that they acted in accordance with their training.

Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD): My Lords—

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords—

Baroness Garden of Frognal (LD): May I just remind noble Lords that there are 20 minutes for Back-Bench interventions? It would be much appreciated if Members could keep their contributions succinct to enable all those who wish to contribute to do so.

3 pm

Lord Thomas of Gresford: From these Benches I declare our complete support for the conclusions and recommendations of Sir Thayne Forbes and congratulate him on the thoroughness with which that report has been prepared. I also declare a personal interest as chair of the Association of Military Court Advocates, having appeared in the paratroopers case in 2005 and the Baha Mousa case in a defence role on both occasions.

I am taken back by the report on the paratroopers case, in which a witness was brought to this country by the prosecution: a lady who alleged that the paratroopers had ripped open the front of her dress and exposed her. She took the Koran at the court martial and then said to the court, “I have now sworn on the Koran and I cannot tell a lie. The allegations I made are completely false”. Back in 2005 the strength of these allegations was very much in question. Mr Shiner was represented either by himself or by a member of his firm throughout the Baha Mousa court martial, since which time an industry has grown up of collecting allegations which have been put forward in the words described by the Minister and which have proved to be completely false and had to be withdrawn. The noble Lord told us that an investigation is taking place into the conduct of that firm; therefore I suppose that I cannot say much about it. Perhaps I may just express the traditional position of the legal profession that ambulance chasing, as it used to be called in another context, was always unprofessional. Advertising used to be unprofessional. But this conduct of going round collecting allegations against British troops must surely enjoy the condemnation of everybody in this House.

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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I, and I am sure the whole House, would agree with what my noble friend says. He asked me about the Legal Aid Agency’s inquiries into Mr Shiner. The agency was asked by the previous Lord Chancellor to investigate whether Public Interest Lawyers withheld these documents, thereby improperly obtaining public funding for the judicial review. The LAA has referred some concern to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and we understand that the SRA had already commenced an investigation into whether PIL or Leigh Day & Co breached any professional standards.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I welcome this report, which has been thoroughly done—and thank goodness it has put to bed those dreadful claims. However, I have some real concerns. We seem to be more willing now to concern ourselves with the human rights of people who set out to kill us—these men were actually intending to kill our soldiers, and often people are intending to kill civilians as well—than with the human rights of our own soldiers. I also have a real concern, to which the Minister alluded, about the impact that it might have on operational considerations. There is no doubt, when one looks back over the past few years, that these pressures, concerns and behaviour have an impact on operations. It has happened within the Royal Navy and in the Army. War is a nasty, bloody and horrible business; we cannot pretend it is anything else. People have to make decisions in seconds. When you are trying to get operational information, sometimes it is not the nicest thing possible. That does not mean that we should break all the human standards and behaviour that we expect—and we do not. But we have to be very careful about putting too many limits on them. I share the view of the noble Lord opposite about Mr Shiner and his firm and the other firm. I have managed to read only the first part of the report but clearly there are issues that need to be looked at by more than the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They should be looked at in great detail because we should never allow this sort of thing to happen to our own people by firms in this country. An ambulance chaser is too good a term if what is said in the report is true.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his support. I agree very much with what he says. He is concerned about service men and women on operations. I have discussed this issue at some length with the noble Viscount, Lord Slim, who I know also has concerns on this. I have spoken to many service men and women in the Army and the Marines, and I think that we have got it right at the moment. We learnt a lot of lessons in Iraq and Afghanistan—lessons learnt by the previous Government—regarding detention, interrogation and the rules of engagement. The lawyers learnt a lot of lessons, too. A few years ago I had many complaints about lawyers from soldiers, but I have not had a single one since I have been a Minister. I feel quite comfortable—from talking to soldiers, especially to the Special Forces, although we cannot say too much about that—that we are in a good place at the moment.

Lord Dannatt (CB): My Lords, as a former Chief of the General Staff, and speaking on behalf of all those who have served, are serving and will serve in the

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Army, I can say that this report is extraordinarily welcome. It is no surprise because the allegations were so outrageous that they were always going to be found to be baseless. I say that because, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree, when we believe that things have gone wrong we are not backward in coming forward to launch an investigation. Baha Mousa, who has been mentioned several times in the Chamber this afternoon, is a clear case of that.

Does the Minister agree that what comes out of this report, among other things, is that there is a somewhat unhealthy predisposition to take the allegations sufficiently seriously when common sense and normal practice—and the normal values and standards of behaviour of the Army—fly in the face of those allegations? There has been a predisposition to take seriously allegations by a firm called Public Interest Lawyers, but in whose public interest it operates I really do not know. We took it so seriously that we were prepared to spend 10 years and £31 million investigating something that many people, after a preliminary investigation, would have thought was baseless, as it has turned out to be. The stress and strain placed on many worthy servicemen who were doing their duty in the most difficult circumstances is an outrage and a stain on a wider process. I hope we do not go down the same track again and enter into an investigative process where the likelihood of a conviction coming out of it is so extraordinarily low.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and I pay tribute to all those service men and women who served in Iraq. I know that the noble Lord had a very distinguished service out there. Lessons have been learnt. Ministers are very concerned about the situation; we have discussed it at great length. I assure the noble Lord that lessons have been learnt. We do not want ever to have another inquiry like this. I make no criticism of the previous Government for calling this inquiry. There were very good reasons for doing it. However, we need to talk to the legal industry to see whether there is some way of avoiding going down this road ever again.

Lord Trefgarne (Con): My Lords, it is clear that the action of the lawyers, which has been commented on by several noble Lords, greatly contributed to the huge cost of this exercise. Can my noble friend say whether there is any possibility of reclaiming some of those costs, possibly from the firms of lawyers concerned?

Lord Astor of Hever: I agree entirely with my noble friend. There is no provision for the sponsoring department to recover costs incurred during a public inquiry. However, in light of the inquiry’s findings and the claimant’s disclosure failure, I assure my noble friend that we intend to appeal a costs order in the stayed judicial review, with a view to recovering some of the costs of that litigation.

Viscount Slim (CB): My Lords, I ask noble Lords to think carefully and—as you always do—sensibly about this business of tactical questioning. This could have been an action with a wider content in the overall

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Iraqi plan. Further down the road or within 24 hours another major ambush such as this may have been contemplated, was being prepared for and would take place. Therefore, the immediate tactical questioning was very important to discover whether the incident was isolated or part of a larger plan. One has to be severe in the questioning, and there are ways of doing that, harsh and not so harsh—they could be offered a cigarette, for example, but there is no need to go into details. But it is vital to find out if there is more to come, immediately.

Therefore, when you use tactical questioning, which is not deep interrogation, minds should allow for this up to a certain period. The Ministry of Defence has now defined what can take place immediately after the battle, which is for the good and necessary for the future. If the Iraqis had captured nine of our soldiers, we would not have nine soldiers to speak to today and it would have been a slow process of death. It is worth remembering these things.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I am assured that there is now a clear policy on tactical questioning and interrogation. This policy has been in place since 2005. The policies were separated in 2010 to emphasise the distinction between the two disciplines. They were further revised in 2012 to incorporate recommendations from the Baha Mousa inquiry and have been reviewed following the Court of Appeal judgment on the Hussein case.

Obviously, as the noble Viscount said, I cannot go into details of interrogation, but again I have spoken to a large number of service men and women about this subject, which interests me a lot, and I have visited military police. I accept that we still have many lessons to learn from noble Lords with a lot of experience in this and I am always ready to hear whatever advice they may have.

Lord Snape (Lab): My Lords, as, I suspect, one of the few ex-NCOs here, I feel considerably outgunned by one or two of the contributions.

Viscount Slim: In World War II, we all joined up as private soldiers and the lucky ones later perhaps became officers, which was extra responsibility. I myself was an unpaid lance-corporal.

Lord Snape: Well, like the noble Viscount, my father joined up in World War II and became an NCO. I was fortunate enough to join the Armed Forces during a period of peacetime. What I was attempting to put to the Minister was that I believe that no other army in the world could behave with the restraint shown by the British Army, particularly after incidents such as the Danny Boy incident.

As for the report’s conclusions about ill treatment, does the Minister agree that the question of inadequate food and sleep would apply to the soldiers as much as to the detainees? On the question of Public Interest Lawyers, is the Minister aware that Mr Shiner made his reputation by attacking members of the police force, largely unsuccessfully for many years, before

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moving on to trawling round the battlefield looking for people prepared to make allegations against the British Armed Forces?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I agree with what the noble Lord said about our Armed Forces. I do not think that any other army would put themselves through the inquiry that we have had since 2004. The noble Lord asked about inadequate food and whether that also applied to the soldiers. That may well have been the case. I was not aware that Mr Shiner had started his career chasing after the police. I was interested to hear that.

Baroness Manzoor (LD): If there is to be an investigation by the SRA into the conduct of the solicitors, will my noble friend assure the House that that investigation will be concluded speedily, as investigations can take quite some time to complete?

Lord Astor of Hever: I can give my noble friend that assurance, yes.

Lord Bew (CB): My Lords, may I address again the question of cost? Since the Bloody Sunday inquiry, which has already been alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, we have lived in an era of the juridification of armed conflict. These inquiries are often necessary—I was the historical adviser to that inquiry—but it cost £200 million. This inquiry has cost £31 million. We can be pretty sure that, despite the observations made in this House this afternoon, Mr Phil Shiner is not going away. There is an interesting question in this report about possible ways to avoid such costly inquiries in the future. Would the Minister comment on those? These inquiries often govern, as he said earlier, split-second decisions made in moments of conflict.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I listened to part of the Statement as it was made in the House of Commons, and I think the suggestion was made that we should be talking to the legal profession to see whether there is some way to cut down the costs and simplify the process in the future. As I understood it, the Secretary of State responded favourably to that. Let us hope that it is one way forward.

Lord Freeman (Con): My Lords, I welcome the sensible and clear conclusion of the inquiry. Will my noble friend bear in mind that, if there was any move to transfer responsibilities from British justice to the International Court of Justice, there would be serious misgivings on many sides of this House?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, yes. I am well aware of the point my noble friend makes.

Lord Soley (Lab): As a country that promotes the rule of law, I think we can be proud of this report in the face of such serious allegations. It does us a great service overseas when people can see our open and free system of justice. I do not wish to repeat the many points that have been made, the vast bulk of which I

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agree with, but I want to make a suggestion to the noble Lord. Over the past 20 years or so, and not just in military cases, I have noticed a tendency in the legal profession when handling high-profile cases to make statements to the media in which they often do not make it clear that there must be a presumption of innocence, not a presumption of guilt. I wonder if the noble Lord would consider putting it to the Attorney-General that he needs to engage in discussions with the professional bodies representing the legal profession to make sure that when statements are made, lawyers, barristers, solicitors and anyone else should always make it absolutely clear that there must be a presumption of innocence, even in the most difficult of cases.

Lord Astor of Hever: I very much agree with the noble Lord that any statement to the press should point out the presumption of innocence. I know that the noble Lord takes a great interest in this subject, and indeed I think I sat next to him on a C17 going out to Afghanistan a few years ago.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I apologise for coming in again, but the point made by my noble friend does raise something. There is a perception around the globe that we are guilty of doing ghastly things because of the way it was put out by so much of the media. In terms of our Prevent strategy and our outward-looking strategy, can I ask the Minister whether we are really going to make sure that it gets around that there was absolutely nothing behind this? We need to put that out through all the channels like the Prevent strategy and others.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point and I will take it back to the department. I shall talk to other Ministers and to our media people to see what we can do to get into the outside world the very important message referred to by the noble Lord.

Baroness Deech (CB): My Lords, there has been considerable criticism of the legal profession in this short debate, and of course I would not for a moment defend the costs and the conduct. It helps one to understand the backlash against human rights. On the other hand, this House has recently stood up for the principles of judicial review. I think we have to bear in mind that, although we may criticise the lawyers in a particular case, when it comes to needing a fearless inquiry or needing people who will stand up to the Government no matter how unpleasant and difficult the circumstances, our legal profession still has a lot to be said for it. Its members should not be wholly condemned because of this particular incident. There are, of course, two sides when considering the legal profession.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I have to be very measured in my criticism of the legal profession because I have a number of lawyers who are closely related to me.

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Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014

Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 201416th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

3.20 pm

Moved by Lord Popat

That the Regulations laid before the House on 27 November be approved.

Relevant documents:16th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Lord Popat (Con): My Lords, I should point out that I shall be speaking to both sets of regulations. However, before I deal with the substance of the regulations, I would like to draw noble Lords’ attention to the sensitive names regulations. These are subject to a special parliamentary procedure whereby they must be approved within 28 days of being made.

The regulations offer companies more flexibility, they are deregulatory and they consolidate current names and trading disclosure regulations. They will also apply to limited liability partnerships and businesses. The changes being made will remove burdens from business. When setting up a company, LLP or business, entrepreneurs need to concentrate on getting business done and should not have to deal with unnecessary red tape associated with the name that they wish to give a business. That said, it is important that there are some rules associated with the chosen name—for example, that it is not the same as or similar to a name that is already in use or that the name does not convey something that could mislead the general public and result in harm. These regulations seek to strike a balance between the need to deregulate, and thus provide flexibility to companies to choose their name, and sufficient protection for the public.

The Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business Names (Sensitive Words and Expressions) Regulations 2014 list the words and expressions that are considered sensitive under the Companies Act 2006. As a result of the Company and Commercial Law Red Tape Challenge, this list has been reduced by 26 words compared to current regulations. The consultation on this issue asked three questions: whether it was necessary to continue to have regulations specifying words and expressions deemed to be sensitive, thereby requiring approval for use in a name; if so, whether the current list of sensitive words and expressions should remain the same; and whether the sensitive words and expressions list could be reduced. The responses were clear that some words could mislead the public into thinking that the company has pre-eminence, a particular status or function. Therefore, it is necessary to regulate the use of some words and expressions.

However, most responses also thought that it would be beneficial to business to review the sensitive words and expressions list and reduce it where possible. By reducing the list, we will be reducing the burden on those businesses that may wish to use the words or expressions that were previously considered to be sensitive. Any proposed company name that includes a specified

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word or expression must have the approval of the Secretary of State. Approval is granted by the Registrar of Companies at Companies House on behalf of the Secretary of State. Furthermore, in some cases, the views of other specified bodies must also be sought in connection with an application for a name containing a sensitive word or expression; for example, to use the word “bank” a company would need the support of the Financial Conduct Authority.

When deciding which words to remove from the list, we considered the number of applications received over a period, including whether or not approval to include the word was normally granted and the likely impact on the public should the word or expression be removed from the list. I am confident that the words that we are removing will not have a negative impact on the public if they are included in a company, LLP or business name unchecked.

In moving the second set of regulations, the Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2014, I begin by making it clear that the majority of the content of these regulations is merely a consolidation of five current statutory instruments relating to company names and trading disclosures. These regulations have been consolidated in line with Red Tape Challenge principles. Responses to the consultation offered support for merging the regulations.

Although this instrument essentially restates previous regulations, there are some key changes that I would like to draw to your Lordships’ attention. The most significant is that we have extended the list of characters that can be included in a company name. Under these regulations a company will be able to include accents, diacritical marks and ligatures in its name. This change recognises the advances in technology that will now enable Companies House to accept these characters and, more important, that many companies that register in the UK operate on an international basis and may wish their name to reflect this.

The regulations also make a change to the trading disclosure requirements. It is usual for a number of companies to be registered at one location. In circumstances where six or more companies share one location, the current requirement is for the name to be displayed continuously for 15 seconds at least once every three minutes. We are relaxing this requirement so that if there are six or more companies at one location, a list of their names may instead be made available on request.

A number of changes are also being made when considering whether the company name is the same as another one. These changes will also allow groups of companies to swap the names within their group structure more easily. This is something that was particularly highlighted by business, which felt that the current regulations were particularly unhelpful in these circumstances. A number of common words such as “group”, “holdings” and “international” will no longer be disregarded when comparing names; for example, Butchers Holdings Ltd will no longer be considered the same as Butchers Ltd, making it easier to register such a name if the other is already registered.

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I hope that your Lordships will agree that the regulations before us strike the right balance of protecting the public and allowing many more companies to choose a name that they believe best reflects their business. These regulations make a number of small changes that will reduce the red tape that companies currently have to cut through and I commend them to the House.

Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab): My Lords, what a thrilling set of statutory instruments to end the year with. I can understand why people have stayed in the Chamber. To paraphrase the bard, I suppose that a company’s name would be the same as any other if it was allowed to use the diacritics and ligatures and things that I must admit I was not absolutely sure of until I waded my way through the regulations. We are happy to support what seems a common-sense revision of the regulations. I suppose that the only concern one might have is to ensure that, in creating new flexibilities, this does not give an opportunity for companies to behave in a way that is less than ethical. The only question that comes to mind as we introduce these changes is: will there be any review process to see whether the high standards that we aim to achieve in company behaviour are maintained? The only other thing I want to say is to wish everybody a merry Christmas and a happy new year. That includes the staff and everybody else.

Lord Popat: My Lords, in terms of companies being ethical, I think that we have a world record in that respect. Our company law protects the public and the Government and makes sure that companies operate ethically. As for reviews, there was a review in 2006, instigated by the party opposite, and I recall the noble Baroness, Lady Vadera, doing one in 2009. This is another one in 2014. I hope that we are doing more to make it easier for companies to trade in the UK. I thank the noble Lord for his good wishes for Christmas and I commend the regulations to the House.

Motion agreed.

Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 2014

Draft Company, Limited Liability Partnership and Business (Names and Trading Disclosures) Regulations 201416th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion to Approve

3.30 pm

Moved by Lord Popat

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 27 November be approved.

Relevant document: 16th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments

Motion agreed.

Motion to Adjourn

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

That the House do now adjourn.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con):My Lords, this is an opportunity that the House gives itself each year, so that we can not only depart with the Christmas

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greetings of the noble Lord, Lord Young, but wish a happy Christmas to all the staff who support this House. We are extremely lucky in this place: the House of Lords is a byword for efficiency, courtesy and politeness, and that is manifested by all our staff in the way in which they look after us. They support us every day, all the time that we are here in session, including when we sit at night, and when the House needs care and attention.

This can often be an unpredictable place to work. I know that my job is to try to make it an entirely predictable place, but I do not always succeed in that objective. This afternoon has been an example: we cannot be sure how the timetable will turn out, and where we shall find ourselves. In that turmoil of political debate and activity, we find ourselves surrounded by people for whom the phrase “Keep calm and carry on” might well have been invented. I thank them for their calmness, their professional manner and their endless dedication.

For my own part, as noble Lords will know, I started this year presenting Bill after Bill, as the Home Office churned out legislation and I was here to answer for the Home Office—successfully, I hope. I think the Home Office, now in the care of my colleague, my noble friend Lord Bates, stands high in this House. But I am now in a different mode, looking after the whole legislative programme and keeping it running in an orderly fashion. Allowing the House to scrutinise, as is its character, what the Government present is part and parcel of the joint activity of all of us involved in the usual channels.

I thank the House for the way in which it has welcomed me into the role. I give it my personal thanks, because the Chief Whip must have a very personal relationship with the House. I give particular thanks for the support I have had from the opposition Chief Whip, who, unfortunately, is not here at the moment. I am sure that he soon will be. I also thank the Convenor—and here is the opposition Chief Whip, just in time, as he always is. The usual channels are very important. A lot goes on behind the scenes, not to fix debates but to make it possible for this House to debate in an orderly fashion.

This Adjournment is also an opportunity for us to recognise those long-serving members of the staff of the House who have retired or are shortly to retire. Before I do so, I have a sad tribute to pay to Ruth Hardwick, who passed away in March this year. Ruth joined the House of Lords Library in 2002 and made an enormous contribution to the work of the Library and her team. Ruth is still hugely missed by her colleagues in the Library, particularly at this time of the year, as she had great generosity and an infectious laugh. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this time of the year.

Robert Jelley, Bob, who retired in March this year, was a principal attendant and had served this House for 23 years. He was one of the longest-serving members of staff in the Department of Facilities. During those 23 years, he covered almost every job in the attendants’ office. Many will recognise him from the Committee Corridor, with the big red book of room bookings. He was a very friendly and approachable member of staff,

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and may be remembered, but will remain unnamed, for providing emergency haircuts for state opening. I have no idea what that refers to, but it is worth asking noble Lords whether they know and can tell me about it. That might come in useful. I am sure that the House will join me in thanking him and wishing him an enjoyable retirement with his wife, Jan.

David Trowbridge retired in March this year. He had many years’ service in reprographics and witnessed a huge amount of technological change—an area where office work has changed enormously. His retirement is allowing him to devote more time to his great interests of gardening—I am all in favour of that—and amateur dramatics, and I hope that he is indulging his passion at this time of year with a pantomime.

Kevan Holland worked for many years as a conservator in the Archives. He was a versatile member of the team, always keen to develop his expertise in new areas. Many of your Lordships will have benefited from his skills in designing and building exhibitions, display mounts for outreach activities, et cetera. In retirement, Kevan has been able to devote more time to golf and his grandchildren.

Lastly, Angelo Conde is due to retire in the new year after 20 years’ service in the catering department. I understand that Angelo is a modest man and has asked that nothing special happen for his retirement, so if he is listening or watching this, perhaps he should cover his ears. In his first week, his line manager told Angelo not to worry about remembering everything on day one. “I am never off sick”, he said and, unfortunately, went home that evening and broke his leg. In 20 years, he has certainly recovered from that. He has shown a great deal of leadership in training new members of staff who have joined the catering department. It has even been commented that he often did such a good job in training new staff that they were poached by other departments. We know all about that. I will not say much more in the hope of not embarrassing him further, but I wish him well in his retirement and hope that he enjoys being able to spend more time in Spain and playing golf. I think we ought to have set up a golf club for former staff members of the House, as it seems to be their favourite hobby.

We know the debt that we owe to the staff, and I thank them on behalf of the whole House. All that remains for me to do is to wish Members and our staff a very restful and enjoyable Christmas. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab): My Lords, it is my great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, whose presence at the Dispatch Box as Chief Whip I am greatly enjoying. I wish him and his family well for Christmas and the new year. I am sure that they will have a peaceful time growing bulbs—a nice quiet profession. I join the noble Lord in thanking the staff of the House: the doorkeepers, the clerks, the cleaners, the police officers, the security staff, all those who work in our catering service and all those who keep the House running and ticking over. We owe them a great deal and we should do our best to wish them well for all that they do for us.

I, too, have three members of staff to pay tribute to. Some of them will be better known to colleagues and Members than others. The first of them is Stella

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Devadason, who was appointed as a doorkeeper on 22 February 1999, not long after I joined your Lordships’ House. She was the first woman to be appointed to the position. I remember that very clearly because she was different, and she was very short—but she compensated for her size very capably by the persuasive way in which she conducted her duties. She was extremely effective and gained great respect from Members all around your Lordships’ House.

Stella’s background was this: born in Malaysia, she moved to England as a young woman and enlisted in the Royal Navy as a nurse. She achieved a senior rank through her very hard work, and it was that which led her eventually to joining the House of Lords and taking up her appointment. She became very popular as part of the doorkeeper cadre, and she was willing to give that little bit extra without being asked. For her last years in serving the House, as colleagues will know, she volunteered to become a redcoat—and the first female redcoat at that. It is a very difficult job, actually, but Stella, as with everything she has always done, carried out her duties with great courtesy to both Peers and guests, and was very good at guiding us all around the building and ensuring that we were all well looked after. Since her retirement, Stella has moved back to Plymouth and at present is visiting her family in Malaysia. I am sure that we all wish her the very best in her, hopefully, long, happy and healthy retirement.

The next staff member who has retired in the past year to whom I want to pay tribute is Bill Sinton. He retired in July after a long and illustrious public service career stretching back to 1968, when he entered the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Bill’s Foreign Office appointments included ambassadorial posts in Panama City from 1996 to 1999, Algiers from 1999 to 2001 and Bolivia from 2001 to 2005. He was appointed OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1999. In 2006 he joined the House of Lords administration and spent eight years working as a clerk in the Committee Office, first as Lords clerk to the Joint Committee on Human Rights and latterly as clerk to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and Finance Bill Sub-Committee. Bill, as with all our staff, combined modesty with a sense of humour and gained a special commendation for his efforts in the Committee Office’s celebration of Christmas Jumper Day in 2013, in aid of Save the Children Fund. Apparently his retirement plans include having the time to play golf, so I think he is going to find some other retired staffers on the golf course.

Lastly, I pay tribute to Fred Pace. Fred was one of our highly skilled conservators, specialising in bookbinding and repair. Apparently, Fred was particularly renowned for his very engaging and enthusiastic demonstrations of his craft to visitors to his studio. He took all these visits in his stride, and on one occasion had to demonstrate the art of applying gold leaf—there is plenty of that in this building—including the role of egg white as an adhesive, to a visiting group of Chinese archivists who spoke no English. He rose magnificently to the challenge, relying entirely on his powers of mime to provide a memorable and effective presentation of cracking eggs—and cracking jokes, no doubt, as he did it. Fred Pace had a great and special role in your Lordships’ House,

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and we—and the nation—are extraordinarily grateful for the hard and important work that conservators do to keep this place as it is, in a peerless condition.

That concludes my tributes. I thank everybody in the House for their forbearance—on this national festive footwear day: I have red boots on to celebrate redcoats—and wish everybody a happy and very merry Christmas and a peaceful new year.

3.45 pm

Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, I apologise, as I cannot match the opposition Chief Whip as regards festive footwear. I join him and the Chief Whip, echoing their words of thanks to the staff. They provide us with a first-rate service, and we do not always get the time to acknowledge that or to thank them properly.

A familiar name to very many Members of this House is Maureen Buck, who retired from the Finance Department earlier in the year after serving the House for just over a decade. Many Peers will have spoken to her over the years, in particular during the period of change in the finance scheme, which I know caused many Peers considerable concern. One member of staff described her as a lioness, and said that she was always firm but fair—ideal qualities for anyone serving in any finance department. I hope that she is enjoying her retirement and has had time to go on at least one of the cruises that she loves to take.

Malcolm Clayton, who retired at the end of September, joined the House after a long career in the Civil Service and was part of the internal audit team. During his time here he made a strong contribution to the unit and, in particular, undertook several useful reviews, including one on voting and Divisions in this House, for which all Whips were particularly grateful. I trust that he is enjoying his retirement in the New Forest.

Mike Thomas retired in March this year after six years as legal adviser to the Select Committee on the European Union. He had a long legal career, joining the Government Legal Service in 1980. During his time he worked for many government departments before joining the House of Lords. I understand that he is already enjoying his retirement with his wife.

Last but not least is Alan Neenan, who retires today. Alan has been an attendant in most of the buildings in and around the Palace, from Old Palace Yard to Tothill Street. He was an integral part of the team that helped get the Millbank building up and running. He will be sorely missed by the team, not just for his attitude to work but for the weekly quizzes that he devised for them. I have been told that he is known to be a rather snappy dresser, so I hope he is wearing his favourite shirt today. I wish him a long and happy retirement.

It remains only for me to wish all Members and staff a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.

Lord Laming (CB): My Lords, I am very happy to follow the noble Lords who have already spoken. On behalf of the Cross Bench group I associate myself with the very well earned tributes that have already been expressed. It is always a pleasure to participate in

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this important tradition, when the House, rightly, takes a moment to express its gratitude to the many staff who serve us so well, week in and week out, often over many years. They are often unseen, but I hope never unnoticed.

It has been another busy year for the House. We are often reminded that average attendance continues to rise, and more and more Members, understandably, wish to contribute to the valuable work of this House. We have more Select Committees, we ask more parliamentary Questions and, generally, we demand more of our staff, who enable us to continue to function effectively. This greater level of activity inevitably impacts on the administration of the House, particularly given the financial constraints under which it is committed to operate. It is therefore a real achievement, and a tribute to the dedication and resilience of the staff, that we continue to enjoy such a seamless service in every aspect of the work of the House. I am sure we all agree that we are very fortunate and it is entirely appropriate that we take the opportunity this afternoon to recognise the debt we owe the staff of this House.

I will take this opportunity to mention some former members of staff who have served the House in different but equally important roles. The first is Mark Thatcher, who was an executive chef and left the House in October after 31 years of loyal service. Mark began his career as a sous-chef and was promoted to executive chef three years later. During his employment, he oversaw the development of the kitchen operation to what it is today, serving more than 2,000 covers daily. We thank Mark most warmly for the service he has given to the House.

Paul Brightwell, who retired in July this year as a principal attendant, worked in the House for 21 years. In that time he became a well recognised face in the House, recognised by both staff and Members, in particular because, in 2005, Paul was posted to Fielden House and made a great success of establishing the services at this newly opened building. Those of our number who occupy accommodation in Fielden House know very well the contribution Paul made to our well-being. He was always diplomatic and was valued by colleagues and Members alike. During his retirement he is going to return to the gardening that we have already mentioned, and we wish him and his wife, Marian, a very long and happy retirement.

Guillermo Abelleira will also be taking a well earned retirement after 14 years of service to the House. Guillermo works as a waiter in the Peers’ Dining Room, where he is highly regarded by colleagues and Members alike. He is particularly well known for his hard work and his constant politeness to all he serves. Guillermo is looking forward to spending more time in his native Spain and we wish him well.

Terry Eiss will be well known in the House. He has been here since 2007, serving both as the verger of the chapel of St Mary Undercroft and as the manager of the River Room. Terry proved himself invaluable, as many of us will know, to the families of Members of the House in making the arrangements for a number of different services, marriages and baptisms in the chapel. He also presided over a wide range of receptions in the River Room and was always helpful in advising

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on catering and other arrangements that enabled those important events to run smoothly. Terry has many interests outside the House. We wish him very well in his future and thank him most warmly, as we do all these former colleagues.

Finally, I refer to Francisco De Freitas Nunes, a waiter working in both the Barry Room and the Peers’ Dining Room. Francisco will be leaving the House early next month after five years of exemplary service. He, too, is extremely well regarded by those he serves and will be much missed by his colleagues. I understand

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that Francisco has decided to pursue other career opportunities outside catering and, whichever way this takes him, we wish him great success and happiness.

From the Cross Benches I take this opportunity to thank you all for the support you give us, and me as Convenor, which I value very greatly. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and good success in 2015.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Sewel): I hope that over the festive period all noble Lords will have the opportunity to enjoy a glass or two of paid-for House of Lords champagne.

House adjourned at 3.54 pm.